Conservative Anglicans Act as Missionaries to US

( [email protected] ) Jul 10, 2003 04:55 PM EDT

A group of theological conservatives who left Episcopal Church(USA) three years ago are now becoming missionaries to the United States, Religionjournal reported.

Bishop Charles Murphy, the head of the group, Anglican Mission in America(AMiA) said, "its membership has reached 55 congregations, with 25 additional churches in various stages of development. About 85 ordained clergy, some of whom left the ECUSA and others who are from different Anglican traditions, are affiliated with Pawleys Island, S.C.

During the interview with Religionjournal, Murphy said the AMiA experiences as much growth as it can handle. It is starting new congregations and adopting groups who are leaving ECUSA.

The AMiA was formed as a new conservative alliance which departed from the 2.3 million-member ECUSA and made formal ties to the Anglican Communion, which causeed an international uproar in Anglican circles.

Murphy and John H. Rodgers became a topic of conversation when Anglican archbishops from Asia and Africa ordained them as missionary bishops to the United States and took them under their authority. George Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury and Frank Griswold, Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA called the ordinations an affront to Anglican tradition, which gives bishops authority over issues of ordinatin within their diocese.

At the time, Murphy responded: "The present archbishop of Canterbury was able to remain in full communion with the retired archbishop of Scotland, the Most Rev. Richard Holloway, who states publicly that he no longer believes Jesus was the Son of God. He was able to remain in full communion with Bishop John Spong, who declared publicly that he no longer even believed in any personal God. Yet the present occupant of the See of Canterbury apparently finds that he cannot recognize or be in communion with bishops who would publicly step over institutional boundaries. This is sad."

Today Murphy said to the Anglican bishops of Rwanda and Southeast Asia, "it is a joy to work under these men, who have a passion for the gospel and for reaching out to the unchurched."

He also meets the bishops couple times a year and communicate with them by email and telephone.

"The AMiA has been a part of a wave of churches in Asia and Africa where Western missionaries reached 150 years ago. Today the success in churches of Asia and Africa is sending missionaries to return the favor and share the experience and growth they've gotten used to," said Murphy.

The AMiA started when a number of Episcopal congregations left the ECUSA to join the fledgling group. It has a long-term goal which is the foundation of new Anglican congregations in the United States, the largest English-speaking unchurched population on the planet, Murphy explained.

He believes most of the conservatives who are going to leave the Episcopal Church already have done so. He said "a clear majority of conservatives in the ECUSA 25 ago has become a clear minority today.

Since the ECUSA changed its rules in "a brilliant stroke of canonical law" in 1979, it controls the buildings and land of individual congregations, meaning that conservative congregations that want to leave the denomination can't take the property with them, Relgionjournal reported.

"They hijacked the church. They've got all the money and property an will for a long time. But I don't believe they'll prosper," Murphy said. The ECUSA has been losing members for the past 30 years. As it more clearly defines itself as outside the faith, it is expected to lose more continuously.

The ECUSA is a part of 79 million member worldwide Anglican Communion. "The worldwide Anglican Communion is involved in a massive realignment. The overwhelming majority of the member churches are proclaiming the truth of the gospel, while the rest of the communion believes it is discovering truth," Murphy said.

"Those groups eventually will form two entities. There is a fundamental split within the Anglican Communion and a house divided against itself cannot stand," he added.